This is Part Two. For Part One of this entry, click here.
We were in Pittsburgh over Christmas to spend time with my side of the family and to visit my sister (with the bionic legs) and to make ourselves insane by driving 8 1/2 hours in a car with a two year old who doesn't ever stop asking for things and who refuses to take "no" for an answer. A two year old who does not sleep in the car at night, or so we discovered. A two year old who I was tempted to sell at a truck stop somewhere in Ohio.
My family has a few holiday traditions but they are not rooted in our ethnic heritage, per se. They are a conglomeration of assumed rituals, manifest traditions and customs powered by momentum that fit our family personality so well that it would be a shame to abandon them now.
Being of mixed Irish and Polish or Russian heritage (whichever country owned Vilnius at the time) has very little to do with how we celebrate Christmas.
Christmas season usually begins with the confused and much delayed trading of names for the gift exchange. This is accompanied by the chaos of no one knowing what to get anyone else, my parents' insistence that they don't need anything really-I'm-fine-I-just-want-us-to-be-together-for-the-holidays, and the annual long distance phone calls needed to track down who gets what. There may or may not be drinking of alcohol and/or increases in Zoloft prescription dosages during this time.
The arrival at the abode where everyone will spend the holiday begins what is known as "the feeding of the travelers." As soon as the weary travelers tumble through the door, my parents begin to ply them with food. It does not matter that it is 3 pm or 3 am. Ham sandwiches on baguettes, meatloaf with gravy, bagels and cream cheese...a long list of options are kept at the ready as they have already called five days before to begin stocking the fridge.
The tree is trimmed. If there is tinsel being used, it is hung one.painful.strand.at.a.time.
Christmas Eve. Mushroom Bisque. Midnight Mass. In that order.
Christmas morning. With children, we are forced to wake up long before we would normally roll out of bed. Since this year that meant a wake-up call at 6 am, some of us got up two hours before we normally would. Some of us got up six to seven hours before we normally would. I'm not going to name names here.
There is a mound of presents around the tree that makes it impossible to fit furniture in the living room. My mom is very, very into presents. A plethora of presents. Huge presents. Now that I own my very own toddler, I realize that a lot of these presents also make noise. A lot of noise. She thinks that is great fun and awesome payback for the toddlerhood that I inflicted upon her. For example, what did she get for her littlest grandbaby this year? Tickle Me Elmo. Who should be renamed cackling Elmo.
And for us, her three daughters? We each got a new front loading washer and dryer. I KNOW! It was like being on Oprah. (YOU get a humpback whale!! And YOU get a humpback whale!!!**) Seriously. I've have been surprised very few times in my life and this was one of them. Freaked me out. There will be inquiries as to whether she is adopting more children at this time. She will be taking applications for new children shortly. Probably as soon as she reads this blog entry.
Moving on. Ahem.
We then spend the day sleeping in various places around the house until I can stand the sloth no more and try to talk other people into venturing outside with me. This isn't easy. This year, I could only round up Aaron, Grace and my niece Morgan for a hike through a muddy field .
Finally, we all eat an enormous dinner where my mother frets that nothing is up to standard and we all reassure her that everything is fantastic over and over again as we stuff our faces. And then we go to bed... again. Except for those of us who stay up until 3 am playing video games. And eat the leftovers out of the fridge. But I'm not naming any names. (**Cough**JC**Cough)
And that, my friends, is Christmas.
** Many thanks to my nephew, JC, for introducing me to the comic stylings of Dane Cook.